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Skip to comments.General enlists Hollywood to ignite campaign (Wesley Clark pow-wows with Madonna)
Posted on 11/29/2003 6:41:35 PM PST by Land_of_Lincoln_John
In an unlikely attempt to gain star backing for a slow-burning campaign, the Democratic presidential candidate, General Wesley Clark, is spending late nights talking politics with Madonna and wooing sympathetic supergroups such as The Eagles, with whom he recently shared the stage during a rendition of Hotel California.
Gen Clark, who had a cerebral and somewhat austere reputation during his military career, has spent much of the past month seeking out the late-night company of west coast rock stars, screen idols and movie producers. While his rivals preach to the worthy but unglamorous residents of early-voting Iowa and New Hampshire, Gen Clark is dressing snappily and going out on the town in LA.
After a 90-minute policy discussion with Madonna in her Los Angeles home recently, a friend of the star was authorised to disclose that "Madonna was very impressed with Gen Clark's intelligence and his vision for America". Another associate added: "Don't under-estimate this. Madonna is often ahead of the curve."
The showbusiness strategy reflects a change of direction by the Clark campaign team, which has already decided not to compete in the rural Iowa caucuses that launch the primary season.
The general's tacticians believe that Howard Dean, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, has already won the support of most left-wing grassroots activists. Gen Clark's goal is to emulate Bill Clinton in the 1990s by capturing the heart of Hollywood, a centre of liberal power and influence in America.
"He wants to be the chosen candidate of Tinseltown," said one sympathetic film producer. A Clark aide confirmed to The Telegraph: "We're reaching out to the entertainment community. Entertainers have a lot to offer any campaign. They have a platform, a pulpit, and they obviously get more attention than the average citizen."
They also earn a great deal of money. Gen Clark has calculated that popularity on the West Coast would help him to catch up with his rivals financially, after a late entry into the race, as well as achieve a nationwide "buzz" to match Mr Dean. Before his second election victory in 1996, Mr Clinton benefited from a $500,000 cheque from Steven Spielberg alone.
The apparent decision by Hillary Clinton to stay out of the 2004 presidential campaign has reinforced the Clark campaign's conviction that the general has the chance to fill a "charisma gap" on the moderate wing of the Democrats.
Gen Clark's Eagles night was judged a political triumph by his team and a model for similar events throughout next year. The group, who hope to influence a future Democratic president on environmental issues, agreed to play for over an hour at the Hollywood fundraiser.
Dressed in black, the general told the audience that Hotel California had been his favourite song since the days of his military service in the state. The Eagles obligingly placed it first on their playlist. According to a campaign aide, "Gen Clark and his wife, Gert, stood by the stage, holding hands and singing along."
The concert, hosted by the original founder of the Hard Rock Cafe, Peter Morton, attracted sympathetic film stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, and raised $500,000 for the campaign. Ms Lopez spent a quarter of an hour with the candidate and reportedly emerged a confirmed Clark fan.
Mr Morton, who has also thrown a dinner party for Gen Clark with Aaron Sorkin, the creator of the hit television series, West Wing, said: "I haven't been this moved by a politician since I had lunch with Bill Clinton prior to his becoming President. Clark is the Democrat's best chance."
After the concert, Gen Clark and his wife went directly to Madonna's mansion, where the discussion ranged from Iraq to President Bush's recent tax cuts.
The general's strategic incursion into Hollywood appears to have caught his chief rival rival, Mr Dean, off-guard. In Iowa, the fight for the nomination is expected to be a two-horse race between Mr Dean and mid-west candidate Richard Gephardt. Mr Dean is also the overwhelming favourite to win the New Hampshire primary.
To stay in the race, Gen Clark needs both the funds and the profile to play a longer game. His team claims that he is finding both on the West Coast. Taking advantage of the time freed up by the decision not to fight Iowa, Gen Clark has even worked to win the support of Hollywood figures who, during the summer, had declared an interest in Mr Dean.
Norman Lear, the creators of some of America's most famous sitcoms, gave Mr Dean a $2,000 campaign contribution last April. Last week, he was at Gen Clark's Eagles concert, having declared: "I'm inclined to the general."
A lunch with Mr Spielberg has also taken place. According to Mr Spielberg's spokesman, Andrew Spahn: "Gen Clark was a very bright articulate guy. We talked about Iraq, North Korea, foreign policy and tax cuts."
Mr Dean may be winning the early battles in Iowa and New Hampshire, but Gen Clark has taken the lead in Hollywood's unofficial "primary". In a Democratic race constantly criticised as lacklustre, an injection of star quality on the side of the General may yet prove a tactical masterstroke.
Hard to believe that this is not from The Onion.